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When the Hound numbs Montag's leg, in many ways it was symbolic of his life. He wasn't ready to move yet, not prepared.
"He was afraid to get up, afraid he might not be able to gain his feet at all, with an anesthetized leg. A numbness in a numbness hollowed into a numbness......" (pg 120)
The numbness of his leg in the numbness of a society which had made created numb people; people who were unwilling to care, feel, wonder, or explore.
The numb leg makes it difficult for him to move, and he almost gives up. He actually contemplates giving himself up! He has to make a decision. The pain in his leg slowly dissipates, and he has made his decision.
"No, we'll save what we can, we'll do what there is left to do." (pg 122)
He hobbles down the street where he collapses in the gravel and comes to terms with Beatty's death. As he does, the pain subsides, and he sets out "in a steady jogging pace" (123) to Faber's house.
It also slows him down enough to almost let the new Hound and possibly the citizenry identify and catch him, which adds excitement at the end of the novel. If they did not pursue him after killing Beatty, the society would not have been following its own rules.
Throughout the majority of the novel, Montag has an overwhelming sense of numbness in his life. Living in Bradbury's dystopian society has numbed Montag's feelings and made him emotionless and unhappy. After becoming friends with Clarisse and witnessing a woman commit suicide by choosing to die with her books, Montag begins to search for meaning in his life. On Montag's way to Faber's home he comments,
"The numbness will go away, he thought. It'll take time, but I'll do it, or Faber will do it for me" (Bradbury 36).
Immediately after killing Captain Beatty, Montag comes face to face with the Mechanical Hound. As the Mechanical Hound pounces on Montag, he successfully shoots it with the flamethrower while it stabs him in the leg with its procaine needle. Montag's leg becomes numb, and he struggles to stand up. Bradbury writes,
"He was afraid to get up, afraid he might not be able to gain his feet at all, with an anesthetized leg. A numbness in a numbness hollowed into a numbness" (56).
The numbness in Montag's leg is symbolic of his internal, emotional numbness. Montag's fear of taking control of his own life is similar to his fear of getting up after being stabbed. In both instances, Montag is forced to overcome feelings of numbness. In addition to symbolically representing Montag's internal struggle to find meaning in his life, it creates suspense as he attempts to flee from the authorities. The reader wonders if Montag will be able to escape with an injured leg and live a fulfilled life.
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